Little Bits of History

University of Texas Sniper

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 1, 2011

Life magazine covered the story

August 1, 1966: Shooting at the University of Texas leaves 13 dead and 31 wounded. The death toll rose after it was discovered that Charles Whitman had already killed his mother and wife to spare them from the embarrassment of his foreseen actions. One of his victims, a pregnant woman, miscarried her child raising the death toll to 16. He was also killed by police.

Whitman joined the Marines in July 1959 and began engineering classes at the University of Texas in 1961 using a USMC scholarship. He married in 1962. He lost his college funding in 1963 after his grades dropped and he was sanctioned for skinning a deer in a dorm shower. Back on base, he was court-martialed in November 1963 for being drunk, carrying a personal firearm, and threatening another Marine. He was honorably discharged from the service in December 1964 and returned to college.

On July 31 he typed a suicide note and then went to his mother’s apartment where he stabbed her once in the heart. He added to his note in handwriting this time and then killed his wife, stabbing her five times. He added more to his note. He also wrote letters to his father and two brothers spelling out financial concerns, the care of his dog, and asking that film be developed. As morning approached, he called his wife’s employer, saying she was sick. He later called his mother’s company, as well.

He then purchased a M1 Carbine shotgun. He spoke with the postman while sawing off the barrel. He loaded the shotgun, two rifles (one with scope), and three pistols into a crate. He went to the Tower, a university landmark and tourist stop, and with the crate on a dolly, passed a security guard with his “delivery.” He killed a receptionist on his last leg up to the top of the tower and barricaded the entryway. As others tried to come up, he shot and killed two more people. He indiscriminately picked off people from the ground below. Finally, two Austin, Texas police officers crept to the tower catwalk while others out on the street kept Whitman pinned down. Both police officers on the tower claimed credit for stopping Whitman’s rampage. Video of newscast is found here.

“I imagine it appears that I brutally killed both of my loved ones. I was only trying to do a quick thorough job.” – from Charles Whitman’s suicide note

“He was our initiation into a terrible time.” – Guadalupe Street merchant, Austin TX

“Learn to see in another’s calamity the ills which you should avoid.” – Publius Syrus

“There are plagues, and there are victims, and it’s the duty of good men not to join forces with the plagues.” – Albert Camus

Also on this day:
“You’ll never look at music the same way again” – In 1981, MTV begins broadcasting.
Collapse – In 2007, the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed.

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